Bashiok responded to several threads giving some new information on gems and the way Caravans work in multiplayer. He also rejected the idea of a button that would automatically pick-up every item in the vicinity of the player.
Bashiok was asked if it would take over 19000 level 5 gems to make a level 14 one.
Yeah, that's about right. I mean keep in mind none of this has been proven through actual testing but the current design is that yeah, it's going to take a lot of lower level gems to reach the very highest high end.
The gem-to-gem upgrade intent is not to have these huge gaps where you feel like you're lame unless you have level 14 gems in every slot, but as a long term goal for the hardcore min/maxers and PvPers who are going to be playing for a long time and be able to work toward those goals. It's something you can put a little time into just by upgrading the gems you pick up during normal play, so you're constantly able to keep working toward the goal of crafting a level 14 gem.
Also the trading game and millions of people playing for months is going to make them a lot more attainable than they may seem when throwing out numbers like 19,000. :)
It's possible it may feel crappy or we need to add something to help jump gaps, or, who knows. It's all very unproven at the moment, but we think provides a nice long term goal anyone can work toward just by killing monsters and picking up gems.
Gems do stack. Right now it's 10 but that could go up as we see fit. They have a good chance of being used in other ways aside from simply being socketed, something that would siphon them out of the economy. Maybe crafting. We like them remaining as something you have to visit the Jeweler artisan to combine. We don't want it to be annoying or take a lot of time though. We also don't anticipate someone visiting one with 19,000 gems looking to upgrade all the way to level 14. ;)
They don't have a level requirement so we do intend to see them used as a way to twink new characters, or allow people to buy into gemming up a bit earlier on if they have the gold.
Our current anticipation is that it will take the hardcore players quite a while before they start maxing out their gems, long enough that they won't see level 14 gems in all slots for all of their gear before we throw something new at them.
You will not get anywhere near the amount of crafting reagents back from what it took to craft the item. If you craft something, then salvage it, you'll be losing a significant portion of what it will take to make another one of the same type.
It's important to keep in mind that you can pay an artisan to remove the gems from an item. The last design I had heard of was that it was based on gem value, so as you socket higher level gems it becomes more expensive, but you'll almost certainly want to unsocket gems to level them up, or swap to new gear. This may cause some unique problems for low level (non-twink) characters attempting to buy high level gems and then being unable to remove them from the socket when they get a better piece of armor (because they can't afford it), but that may turn out to be an acceptable roadblock.
But what if the recipe calls for a gem in it's creation. In that instance, it's not really a socketed item as an ingredient. Can we still re-coup the gem in this case? Or will we never run into this circumstance?
The idea of gems even being required for recipes is still just a notion, so in-depth design on how they're incorporated with crafting is unknown.
You will see and interact with your own caravan while in a multiplayer game.
That doesn't stop someone from crafting something from their upgraded artisan and trading it to you, of course.
Yea that was a concern I had as well. If you were lucky enough to find a very rare powerful recipe, you would want to control the production of it. It would have been lame if any1 in the current game with you could just start using your' artisans at their leisure.
I always imagined a situation where people would have rare recipes and actually charge entry to their games so people could craft them. It has huge griefing potential, and really selling the crafted item is a cleaner way to make desirable items accessible. It does require the investment up front though.
We don't like and don't want to encourage any type of item-hoovering. Killing monsters, seeing items pop out, and then picking them up is part of the game.
We don't mind auto-pickup for gold because there's never any reason you wouldn't pick it up, because it doesn't take up inventory space. Anything that takes up inventory space has some amount of choice attached to it, regardless if you think you'll salvage most things or not.
It's important to note that fewer items drop in Diablo III as compared to Diablo II, and the chances for rarer items to drop is less extreme. So you'll be picking up fewer items, and they'll generally be of higher quality as compared to the previous game.